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Old November 5th, 2010, 10:23 PM   #1
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Festung Breslau (Fortress Breslau)


http://www.achtungpanzer.com/festung...ss-wroclaw.htm
Founded in the 10th century, Wroclaw grew as a trade center on the route between southern Europe and the Baltic Sea. In the 12th century, it served as the capital of Silesia, and from 1335 until 1526, it was ruled by Bohemia. A Habsburg possession from 1526 until 1741, it was then ruled by Prussia and Germany. Wroclaw was incorporated into Poland in 1945.
On January 27th of 1945, after battle for Olesnica (Oels in Schlesien) units of 73rd Infantry Corps began their advance towards Festung (Fortress) Breslau (Wroclaw). Units of the Gluzdovsky’s 6th Army and 5th Guards Army supported by 7th Guards Motorized Corps and 4th Guards Tank Corps were to encircle the city attacking from bridgeheads on the river Oder towards the town of Katy Wroclawskie (Canth).
Soviet attack began on February 8th of 1945 and since the beginning encountered heavy resistance from LVII Panzer Korps as well as counterattacks from 19th Panzer Division from the direction of Raciborz (Ratibor) and 20th Panzer Division from Jawor (Jauer) and Strzegom (Striegau). At the same time, Germans on Hanke’s order from January 19th, evacuated civilian population in an ill-fated rescue operation, which resulted in death of some 90000 civilians due to the lack of transport and very cold weather. Large number of people evacuated from Breslau were killed during thebombing of Dresden.
The high point of the battle was on February 13th when 19th Panzer Division desperately defended Autobahn in the area of Kostomloty, the only link between encircled city and the remainder of the German forces. At the same time, 17th and 269th Infantry Divisions were ordered to breakout of the city to join other formations in the area. In the night of 13/14th February, tanks from 7th Guards Tank Corps closed the ring around the city with the garrison of 80000 men.
In early March of 1945, German High Command attempted to break the encirclement by concentrating in the area of Zgorzelec (Gorlitz) seven divisions including four panzer divisions. German attack began on March 3rd and its main force fell on weakened 3rd Guards Tank Army. After heavy fighting, German attack was stopped and both sides suffered heavy losses.
To strengthen the encirclement General Vladimir Gluzdovsky’s 6th Army with attached single division from 52nd Army was moved into the area.The city was by-passed by the main Soviet offensive by the 1st Ukrainian and Soviets decided take it by storm after encirclement.
Breslau was an important communication and industrial center for the German war machine as it housed numerous industrial plants along with forced labor camps (e.g. Brugweide) and nearby Gross-Rosen concentration camp. Until the last days of the war, the city didn’t suffer any damage as it was out of range of allied bombers and was known as "the air shelter of the Reich". Many government and civil offices were moved to the city from bombed Western and Northern German cities. First time Breslau suffered an air attack was in Fall of 1944 by Soviet bombers, when Soviets reached river Vistula in central Poland. In September of 1944, Hitler declared Breslau to be a fortress - Festung Breslau, which was to be the part of so-called "Eastern Wall" on river Oder.Early work on fortifying the city began as early as June of 1944, but it was not until September when serious work began. City was to be fortified by creating to two defensive rings and stockpiling supplies for long term encirclement. Numerous fortifications were build around the city in addition to two defensive rings. The defenses ran as far 20km from the center of the city. The work was done by forced laborers, volunteers, women, children and old men.
The 80000 strong garrison under Gauleiter Karl Hanke and City Commandant General Krause (who was fired by Hanke because he wanted to evacuate civilian population) and from February, City Commandant General Niehoff was composed of variety of units. They included newly formed 609th Infantry Division, elements of 269th Infantry Division, school and reserve units, improvised SS regiment (SS Festung Abteilung "Besselein"), 38 Volkssturm battalions (each 400 men strong), Hitlerjugend, Police, Luftwaffe ground units and remnants of destroyed combat formations. The defenders had 32 artillery batteries equipped with mixture of old German and captured Soviet, Polish, Yugoslav and Italian artillery pieces. The garrison didn’t have any tanks except for company of 15 various assault guns. In January of 1945, 50 Leichte Ladungsträger Goliath demolition vehicles were delivered along with two batteries of 75mm Pak 40 guns and 18 88mm Flak 36 guns.The garrison was supplied by air with supplies by the German Army and Red Cross and was even reinforced with Fallschirm-Jäger-Regiment 25 from9th Fallschirmjaeger Division in February of 1945. In mid April of 1945, Hanke reported that his forces have only two Tigers to face enemy attacks. The two Tigers were repaired at the FAMO plant, before being committed into battle.Defense of Breslau was under overall command of the Field Marshal Schoerner of Army Group Centre.
On February 16th, direct attack on the city from the south and then from the west began. It soon turned into bloody and savage fight for each house. The heaviest fighting took place in the area of the airbase and industrial district of the city.During the first 3 days of the battle, Soviets lost 76 tanks and at least 100 in next 2 weeks due to the wrong strategy - they used tanks supported by assault groups in the street fighting. Soon, Soviets began using artillery to destroy enemy positions and engineers along with Marines to clear the enemy from the city.In late March the fate of city was sealed as last strong German formations southeast of Opeln (Opole) were destroyed. Fighting in the city continued as Soviets pushed German defenders deeper into the city, who in turned destroyed every house and city block behind them to slowdown the advancing Soviets. After the loss of the airbase on April 1st, Germans used Kaisserstrasse as an airstrip and began to build a new one in the central part of the city. In order to do so they leveled the area using forced laborers. Large open space and construction work was soon discovered by the Soviets, who in turn began shelling the area using heavy artillery. The new airbase was never finished and never used.
On May 6th of 1945, four days after Berlin, City Commandant Hermann Niehoff signed an act of conditional surrender with the commander of the Soviet 6th Army General Gluzdowski, but none of the conditions were kept by the Soviets.
Gauleiter Hanke escaped day before (on May 5th) by specially prepared Fiesler Storch airplane as he was named by Hitlerto be the new German Police Chief and Reichsfuehrer SS in place of Himmler on April 29th of 1945.It is reported that he escaped to Czechoslovakia (Sudetenland), where he fought and died with the SS unit. He was never found and pressumed dead. Some sources claim that he was killed by the Czech partisants or that he escaped to the South America.
Until the surrender of the city on May 6th of 1945, 21600 out of 30000 buildings were destroyed. Following the surrender, the city was in ruins as only 32% of the city was almost usable. 6000 German soldiers and 170000 civilians were killed, while 45000 were taken prisoner. German military losses were higher as numerous rescue planes were shotdown and many evacuated wounded died behind the frontlines. Soviet losses were over 8000 soldiers killed, including some 800 officers. At the end, the defense of the city tied down seven Soviet divisions. On May 9th of 1945 the city was taken over by the Polish City Council and on August 2nd, it became part of Polandby decision of the Potsdam Conference.
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Old November 5th, 2010, 10:57 PM   #2
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Re: Festung Breslau (Fortress Breslau)


Click the image to open in full size.
Bunkers of Wroclaw (Breslau)
A newly renowated bunker on Strzegomski Square. This old cylindrical bunker was built in 1942 and is one of the few bunkers built during WWII in Wroclaw. A bunker is 1,1 m thick and 25m. height

And this bunker in 1945
Click the image to open in full size.

Click the image to open in full size.

Last edited by Edward; November 5th, 2010 at 11:25 PM.
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Old November 6th, 2010, 01:09 AM   #3

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Re: Festung Breslau (Fortress Breslau)


here a video about some impressiv pictures of the last days in Breslau.
It seams to be a musical (propaganda) video of some right-wing music band

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Old November 6th, 2010, 01:21 AM   #4

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Re: Festung Breslau (Fortress Breslau)


and here some movie fromthe Nazi "Wochenschau"

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Old November 6th, 2010, 01:42 AM   #5

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Re: Festung Breslau (Fortress Breslau)


nice post thanks
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Old November 7th, 2010, 09:23 PM   #6

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Re: Festung Breslau (Fortress Breslau)


Great post, Edward, thanks!
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Old November 7th, 2010, 09:33 PM   #7
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Re: Festung Breslau (Fortress Breslau)


More WWII bunkers in todays Wroclaw/Breslau



Click the image to open in full size.






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Old November 7th, 2010, 10:09 PM   #8
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Re: Festung Breslau (Fortress Breslau)


Under this building was head quoter of "festung Breslau". tawer has been blown up by German Army as it was an excellent marking point for Russian artillery.
It was never restored- the destruction was complete.Click the image to open in full size.
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Old November 8th, 2010, 03:45 AM   #9

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Re: Festung Breslau (Fortress Breslau)


First of all, thanks Edward for this thread and the informations of Davies.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward View Post
On January 27th of 1945, after battle for Olesnica (Oels in Schlesien) units of 73rd Infantry Corps began their advance towards Festung (Fortress) Breslau (Wroclaw). Units of the Gluzdovsky’s 6th Army and 5th Guards Army supported by 7th Guards Motorized Corps and 4th Guards Tank Corps were to encircle the city attacking from bridgeheads on the river Oder towards the town of Katy Wroclawskie (Canth).
Soviet attack began on February 8th of 1945 and since the beginning encountered heavy resistance from LVII Panzer Korps as well as counterattacks from 19th Panzer Division from the direction of Raciborz (Ratibor) and 20th Panzer Division from Jawor (Jauer) and Strzegom (Striegau). At the same time, Germans on Hanke’s order from January 19th, evacuated civilian population in an ill-fated rescue operation, which resulted in death of some 90000 civilians due to the lack of transport and very cold weather. Large number of people evacuated from Breslau were killed during thebombing of Dresden.
The prelude of the batlle of Breslau already started with the Operation Bagration in June 44. About 1,4 million Russian soldiers, together with 240.000 partisans and 31.000 artillery, 5-7000 tanks and 5-7000 airplanes destroyed the Heeresgruppe Mitte with 850.000 soldiers (but only 500.000 front soldiers), 3000 artillery, 500 tanks and 600 airplanes. BTW in this battle the division of my grandfather was wiped out. Now the way to the west was open for the Red Army. In January 1945 they already had bridge heads at the western side of the Oder. One negative point at those days was, that e.g. the HG Weichsel was commanded by Himmler, who had no military experience.
On Febr. 8th the 1st Ukrainian front started its new offensive from the Baranow bridge-head. Here my great uncle fought. The German troops had nothing to stop. Only the rests of the 17th Army defended against the 3rd Guards army and the 6th army. On february 15th was Breslau encircled.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward View Post
The high point of the battle was on February 13th when 19th Panzer Division desperately defended Autobahn in the area of Kostomloty, the only link between encircled city and the remainder of the German forces. At the same time, 17th and 269th Infantry Divisions were ordered to breakout of the city to join other formations in the area. In the night of 13/14th February, tanks from 7th Guards Tank Corps closed the ring around the city with the garrison of 80000 men.
The 17th division, mostly smashed at the Weichsel was destroyed in the bulge of neumarkt-Breslau. The 269th Division was participating the battle only with a Kampfgruppe, they later defended the city of Breslau. Other parts of the division fought in the north.
Your amount of the garrison is quite high. The original garrison was about 35.000 men together with 10.000 to 15.000 Volkssturm and HJ.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward View Post
In early March of 1945, German High Command attempted to break the encirclement by concentrating in the area of Zgorzelec (Gorlitz) seven divisions including four panzer divisions. German attack began on March 3rd and its main force fell on weakened 3rd Guards Tank Army. After heavy fighting, German attack was stopped and both sides suffered heavy losses.
To strengthen the encirclement General Vladimir Gluzdovsky’s 6th Army with attached single division from 52nd Army was moved into the area.The city was by-passed by the main Soviet offensive by the 1st Ukrainian and Soviets decided take it by storm after encirclement.
In German it is called battle of Lauban.
Schörner got the mission to take Lauban again. He had two corps for it, with 3 tank divisions (8, 16, 17), 3 infantry divisions and the 6th Volksgrenadierdivision (the new rebuild division of my grandfather). Two of these infantry division didn't appear during the battle. The other units had not the full strenght and the equipment was around 35-40%. the 16th tank division e.g. had 71 tanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward View Post
Breslau was an important communication and industrial center for the German war machine as it housed numerous industrial plants along with forced labor camps (e.g. Brugweide) and nearby Gross-Rosen concentration camp. Until the last days of the war, the city didn’t suffer any damage as it was out of range of allied bombers and was known as "the air shelter of the Reich". Many government and civil offices were moved to the city from bombed Western and Northern German cities. First time Breslau suffered an air attack was in Fall of 1944 by Soviet bombers, when Soviets reached river Vistula in central Poland. In September of 1944, Hitler declared Breslau to be a fortress - Festung Breslau, which was to be the part of so-called "Eastern Wall" on river Oder.Early work on fortifying the city began as early as June of 1944, but it was not until September when serious work began. City was to be fortified by creating to two defensive rings and stockpiling supplies for long term encirclement. Numerous fortifications were build around the city in addition to two defensive rings. The defenses ran as far 20km from the center of the city. The work was done by forced laborers, volunteers, women, children and old men.
Hitler declared Breslau as fortress in autumn 1944 but till January there was nothing done to build defense fortification in greater number. The city was widely unfortified.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward View Post
The 80000 strong garrison under Gauleiter Karl Hanke and City Commandant General Krause (who was fired by Hanke because he wanted to evacuate civilian population) and from February, City Commandant General Niehoff was composed of variety of units. They included newly formed 609th Infantry Division, elements of 269th Infantry Division, school and reserve units, improvised SS regiment (SS Festung Abteilung "Besselein"), 38 Volkssturm battalions (each 400 men strong), Hitlerjugend, Police, Luftwaffe ground units and remnants of destroyed combat formations. The defenders had 32 artillery batteries equipped with mixture of old German and captured Soviet, Polish, Yugoslav and Italian artillery pieces. The garrison didn’t have any tanks except for company of 15 various assault guns. In January of 1945, 50 Leichte Ladungsträger Goliath demolition vehicles were delivered along with two batteries of 75mm Pak 40 guns and 18 88mm Flak 36 guns.The garrison was supplied by air with supplies by the German Army and Red Cross and was even reinforced with Fallschirm-Jäger-Regiment 25 from9th Fallschirmjaeger Division in February of 1945. In mid April of 1945, Hanke reported that his forces have only two Tigers to face enemy attacks. The two Tigers were repaired at the FAMO plant, before being committed into battle.Defense of Breslau was under overall command of the Field Marshal Schoerner of Army Group Centre.
The number of 80.000 men is too high. But it is very difficult to give the number. One problem is that some units were new build during from others the battle or just given a new name. There were fortress units, about 35.000 men, rests of the 269th ID and. Around 10.000 were members of the Volksturm and boys, even 15 years old, from the HJ. The units you gave are quite correct, but the strenght and the equiment was not fully. During the battle some parachute batallons were send to breslau as well.
Commander of the fortress breslau was first Gen. Maj. von Ahlfen. He had personal conflicts with Hanke and was relieved. hanke, as gauleiter, was just the political leader of breslau and commander of the Volkssturm. On 8th of march gen. Niehoff was brought by plane to breslau to become commander of breslau.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward View Post
On February 16th, direct attack on the city from the south and then from the west began. It soon turned into bloody and savage fight for each house. The heaviest fighting took place in the area of the airbase and industrial district of the city.During the first 3 days of the battle, Soviets lost 76 tanks and at least 100 in next 2 weeks due to the wrong strategy - they used tanks supported by assault groups in the street fighting. Soon, Soviets began using artillery to destroy enemy positions and engineers along with Marines to clear the enemy from the city.In late March the fate of city was sealed as last strong German formations southeast of Opeln (Opole) were destroyed. Fighting in the city continued as Soviets pushed German defenders deeper into the city, who in turned destroyed every house and city block behind them to slowdown the advancing Soviets. After the loss of the airbase on April 1st, Germans used Kaisserstrasse as an airstrip and began to build a new one in the central part of the city. In order to do so they leveled the area using forced laborers. Large open space and construction work was soon discovered by the Soviets, who in turn began shelling the area using heavy artillery. The new airbase was never finished and never used.
Yes, the fight was very bloody. The russians attacked the city from south and the west. Nearly every block, every house, every etage was defended by bazookas and flame-throwers. The russians destroyed the first house of a block and then they went on to the next. the houses were attacked by artillery and tanks. The German defense had a lot of mines and blowed often the houses up, when the russians entered it. the furniture from the houses were thrown on the streets, burned, tram-cars were put as barricade. This was done by prisoners and civilians. From march there were even 10year old boys and 12year old girls drafted for this.
The new airbase was build after the airport gandau was lost. Near kaiserstraße they build a 300m wide flying lane. Here again civilians and prisoners were forced to work. It was very risky and 13.000 should have died during the work. The airfield was never used. It is a rumour that the only plane which used this was those of hanke who fled from Breslau on 5th of May.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward View Post
On May 6th of 1945, four days after Berlin, City Commandant Hermann Niehoff signed an act of conditional surrender with the commander of the Soviet 6th Army General Gluzdowski, but none of the conditions were kept by the Soviets.
Gauleiter Hanke escaped day before (on May 5th) by specially prepared Fiesler Storch airplane as he was named by Hitlerto be the new German Police Chief and Reichsfuehrer SS in place of Himmler on April 29th of 1945.It is reported that he escaped to Czechoslovakia (Sudetenland), where he fought and died with the SS unit. He was never found and pressumed dead. Some sources claim that he was killed by the Czech partisants or that he escaped to the South America.
Until the surrender of the city on May 6th of 1945, 21600 out of 30000 buildings were destroyed. Following the surrender, the city was in ruins as only 32% of the city was almost usable. 6000 German soldiers and 170000 civilians were killed, while 45000 were taken prisoner. German military losses were higher as numerous rescue planes were shotdown and many evacuated wounded died behind the frontlines. Soviet losses were over 8000 soldiers killed, including some 800 officers. At the end, the defense of the city tied down seven Soviet divisions. On May 9th of 1945 the city was taken over by the Polish City Council and on August 2nd, it became part of Polandby decision of the Potsdam Conference.
Hanke forbade an evacuation, when it was time for it. After the start of the russian offensiv, long tracks of refugees walked to the city. On Januar 20th hanke called for evacuation. But at that date it was to late. The railway wasn't able to transport such masses of people and the trains with refugees were bombed. On the railway stations broke out panic and a lot were killed. So Hanke ordered for a march to Kostenblut and Kanth, about 20km away. But it was very cold at those days, 10 to 15 degrees below, sometimes even colder, it was snowing and the streets were froozen. Thousands of people started but thousands of uncounted people died. After that the people of Breslau denied any further attempt to leave the town and at the end 200.000 civilians remained in Breslau. All people who were able to work were forced to now. The Gestapo and members of the NSDAP ws chasing for deserters and unwilling people. The deputy major of Breslau, Spielhagen, brought his family to berlin and returned to breslau again. He was arrested by hanke and executed. His body was thrown into the Oder river. many were executed during the following weeks. Till the fall of the airport breslau was supported via airplanes. food was neough in the town, only gasoline and ammunition was lacking. So the people didn't starve. But the cold and the fighting caused heavy losses. The streets and houses were full of dead. They were buried in mass graves it it was possible. Rats became the new owners of the town. The wehrmacht lost its discipline during these battle. They often chased the civilians out of the cellars and bunkers when it was military necessary. The civilians had to search for new shelters, threatened by the russian artillery and bombers. During periods were there were no fights, the soldiers get drunken and had orgies. they were all aware of their following fate. the hangman of breslau, the name was given to hanke, recruited more and more younger ones. At least 10 year old boys and 12 year old girls were called for duty. The greatest losses happened on eastern. after Niehoff had regret to surrender, about 750 heavy bombers destroyed the old city, even with phosphor bombs. a wild firestorm blew through the streets and caused heavy losses. On of the famous fights is the fight in the interior city. The russian attack should have been stopped by units of the HJ in a bloody fight.
After this, the russians didn't start further attacks in greater amount. From now the day was divided into heavy bombardement from the artillery in the morning, followed by air strikes around lunch and in the afternoon. And during all these attacks, the population suffered by the orders and executions of hanke and Niehoff too. In the end a lot hoped that it will all end soon and hoped to be conquered soon. But the surrender was lasting until the 6th of may, when berlin was fallen and Hitler dead for some days. Hanke was at that time Reichsführer SS. (Perhaps one little story here. hanke had an affair with magda Goebbels, during her husband had a liaison with a Czech actress). One day before the capitulation hanke, who has executed so much for desertation and minor cases, escaped by plane to the south. Niehoff and his soldiers went into captivity. Niehoff stayed there till 1955. But the russian victory did not bring peace to the city. A Russian soldateska robbed, raped and executed what was left. But after may a lot of refugees came back to breslau. In august 1945 190.000 Germans were counted in Breslau and 16-17.000 Poles. But this changed soon, when the mass of them were expelled. Just some thousands, mostly important for econmy, were forced to stay.
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Old November 8th, 2010, 04:03 AM   #10

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Re: Festung Breslau (Fortress Breslau)


Remarkable piece of film here:
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